Despicable Vandalism Destruction of public and private properties should never go unpunished
What is happening in our country? Is there any law and order any where? Is there any respect for law or even fear of law? Why the police remain a mute spectator in front of protesters destroying properties? Is the police scared of them or are they ordered by political leaders of the ruling elite not to take any action? It has become a regular show that everyday we read in the news of protesters resorting to massive violence in different parts of our country in large groups on the slightest of excuse or even many times without any excuse and destroying public and private properties on a large scale. What is even more worse is that in many of such cases, they are rarely ever booked by law-enforcing agencies and are easily let off in most cases due to political intervention. This only serves in encouraging them to indulge in more vandalism. Such instances are seen more in cases where the protesters hail from the ruling party itself. Media should also refrain from giving them too much coverage nor should it justify their dastardly acts under any circumstances!
No cause can justify senseless violence and it should never be tolerated quietly because it sets a wrong precedent luring others also to follow the same to get all their demands fulfilled. It is nowadays becoming more of a fashion to employ such intimidatory, terror tactics like burning railways stations, police stations, schools, buses, trains and what not in order to coerce the government to succumb to their demands. What is even more disturbing is the fact that there is a growing trend that the state governments are succumbing to all their demands whether due or undue which can never augur well for the wellbeing of our country. Where is our country heading for? Time has come now when arsonists, vandalisers and all those supporting them are brought to book promptly and handed out a very stern punishment including imposing a very heavy fine on them instead of inviting them to talks, giving them a VVIP status and caving in front of all their demands.
Burning of trains, not to mention buses or trucks, has become the latest fashion and it is a harsh fact that the vandalisers are hardly punished. Strict and uniform punishment must be awarded to all vandalisers promptly if the government really wants that there should be a semblance of law and order in our country and no one can mock the law openly and so freely as we see now. This blackest of black label pasted on India that, “In India not only you can get away by doing anything and everything but also become a VVIP by being invited for talks just like terror groups and terrorists” has to be erased by imposing stringent punishment on all vandalisers who vandalise public and private property on a very large scale but this must be done promptly and very sternly to send the right message to one and all. Has a rapist or a murderer ever been invited for talks by State or Centre? Then why special exemption only for terrorists, terror groups, arsonists and vandalisers? Are our leaders not aware that only terrorists and arsonists attack our entire nation as a whole and prefer destroying whatever comes in their way? What shocks me even more is that even Team Anna has never protested against this! They fail to perhaps realise that corruption slowly corrodes our nation but terrorists and arsonists can destroy our nation in one go.
A veteran sociologist Ashish Nandy once said: “There was a time in Kolkata when torching buses, trams, trains was almost a sport. Vandalism was celebrated as it showed the success of any political demonstration. Things improved only when the government got serious about it, and sent out the message.” This needs to be emulated on a national scale uniformly to ensure strictest compliance of law by all. Media should also play its due role in this regard which is most vital by not showing scenes of vandalisers destroying property on a large scale repeatedly and should rather concentrate fully on ensuring that vandalisers don’t go unpunished. Media should never try to justify their action or anger no matter what the provocation may be by saying that they have lost complete control over themselves. Why don’t they ever burn their own property or vehicle in anger? Naturally, it is because every person loves his/her own belongings very much. It is the fundamental duty of every citizen as enshrined in articles 51-A (i) to safeguard public property and to abjure violence which we must follow voluntarily as good citizens. In fact, we should safeguard private property of others just like we treasure our own property. No one has the right to indulge in vandalism, no matter what the provocation may be and those who do must be dealt with very sternly and should never be allowed to go scot-free.
The naked vandalism of public property every now and then should attract the stringent punishment provided under Prevention of Damage of Public Property Act, 1984 which most unfortunately has been seldom enforced. Incidents involving arson must be taken very seriously and the miscreants who indulged in it are liable to be prosecuted under Section 4 of the Act, which is punishable with imprisonment up to 10 years. This provision relating to damage caused by fire or explosive substances also provided that the minimum sentence would have to be one year unless the trial court, “for special reasons to be recorded in its judgment”, awards a lesser term. Moreover, this special law makes it more difficult for the accused to be released on bail as it mandated that the prosecution would have to be given a prior opportunity to oppose the application. In cases where the mischief causing damage to public property does not involve fire or explosive, Section 3 of the Act provides two grades of punishment. If the damaged public property is an installation related to the supply of water or power or is a means of public transport or telecommunication, Section 3 stipulates that the miscreants would have to be imprisoned for at least six months while the maximum is five years.
The only effective deterrent against this unending menace, says former Attorney General Soli Sorabjee, is to stop showing leniency to the goons. He further adds : “Make it a non-bailable offence and have severe penalties imposed. Fast-tracks courts should try such cases so that in six months, the case should be over and vandals punished. No place for leniency here, the message must go out loud and clear. Make it unpopular. Make it, in turn, a burning issue for the goons.” Every person has the right to protest peacefully but no one has the right to take law into their own hands and in the process senselessly damage public and private property which comes in front of them and kill or break the body organs of those who happened to be there by chance or their vehicle in which they are travelling for no fault of theirs.
Very deeply perturbed at the manner in which individuals or political outfits damaging public properties during bandhs, strikes or agitations manage to go scot-free, the apex court had termed it “extremely unfortunate” and stressed that damages should be recovered from political party or whosoever damages any such property. A Bench headed by Justice Arijit Pasayat made this observation when two committees one headed by former Supreme Court judge Justice KT Thomas and other by senior advocate Fali S Nariman, submitted their detailed reports before it. “Role of Union of India is paramount to make any statute forceful”, noted the Bench, as Nariman informed it that despite the number of bandhs or hartals and the damage to properties rising, there had been negligible convictions. This is most shameful. This is the root cause that earlier burning of bus was a very big thing but now burning of trains has become the latest fashion as we can see for ourselves in various news channels with even small children forming part of the unruly mob in indulging freely as if playing some game. What to say about those news channels who enjoy interviewing them and in projecting it as uncontrolled and justified anger?
The job of the government is not just to only keep on appealing for peace. It is their bounden duty to safeguard peace-loving citizens, public and private property from hoodlums by dealing with them with an iron hand which has not been the case, most unfortunately in majority of big incidents. This has only served in causing rapid increase of such incidents and in depicting a very sorry image of India as an impotent state whom anyone can hold to ransom.
By Sanjeev Sirohi